IMPACT: Oxford, BBC film Ifakara’s new malaria vaccine trials
Ifakara Health Institute and partners are current testing a new and more effective malaria vaccine known as “R21”. The trial – at Kiwangwa and Miono sites in Bagamoyo, Tanzania – has already attracted the attention of big and influential media outlets, including the BBC.
Ifakara was privileged to receive teams visiting to film the trials, which included the Oxford University, the Wingspan Production and the BBC. They filmed between the last week of November and the first week of December 2022.
Their primary focus was on Phase 3 of the trial where participants are now receiving booster dozes. The trial has attracted so much attention due to the fact that earlier this year, a phase two trial of the same vaccine showed an efficacy of 77% against clinical malaria in Burkina Faso – meeting the WHO set milestone of 75% malaria vaccine efficacy by 2030.
Both teams were hosted by the study Principal Investigator, Dr. Ally Olotu and his two trial group members – Dr. Florence Milando, who manages the Ifakara Clinical Trials Facility at Kingani, Bagamoyo; and Dr. Omary Juma, the Ifakara Community Engagement Coordinator, who supported them with connecting with interviewees and navigating the trial sites.
Wingspan team filming is for “Ending Malaria” doc
UK-based production company Wingspan Productions filming activity for the trial is part of a documentary film for international broadcast provisionally titled Ending Malaria. The film’s current principal funder is HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, the film-making arm dedicated to Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
This film interweaves the past and the present so the best science story-telling combines with an unfolding present tense narrative rich in character and jeopardy. They aim to be on four continents with the inside story of this (R21) potentially game-changing vaccine.
The Wingspan team weren’t only with the key trial scientist in Tanzania (Dr. Ally Olotu) but also with trial volunteers, health workers, as well as parents and children being treated for malaria. Alongside the vaccine story, they also followed the progress of other exciting Ifakara’s new innovations in malaria prevention, surveillance and treatment.
The Wingspan team was led by Richard Jon Baron (professionally known as Archie Baron). During their visit, Archie Baron and team also engaged the local production services of African Environments. Accompanying him, was Alexandra Louise Keefe, the documentary producer.
Oxford team sourced footages for own use and as b-rolls for media requests
The Oxford University team came from the University’s Public Affairs Directorate. They looked to film malaria vaccine trials in and around the Bagamoyo Clinical Trials Facility and entomology research platforms in Ifakara Town, Morogoro Region.
The Oxford team belongs to the in-house film unit of the University looking for footages for their own social media and archives, and as b-rolls for media requests, given the high level of international interest in the trial.
Working with the R21 trial Principal Investigator Dr. Ally Olotu, the Oxford team filmed mostly Bagamoyo, Miono and/or Kiwangwa village trial sites, and Ifakara Town. The filming was timed to coincide with the 12-month booster vaccinations for children enrolled on the phase 3 R21/Matrix M Clinical Trial.
Most importantly, the team aimed to capture trial participants receiving booster vaccinations at the site; and interviews with the same. Additionally, the team captured footage of researchers at work and interviews with the same, as well as material related to malaria control and the Oxford/Ifakara research relationship.
In Tanzania, the responsible producer for the Oxford team was Creative Media Manager of the University of Oxford, Thomas (Tom) Wilkinson, who was accompanied by a production crew – Tom Fuller.
The BBC team looked to capture booster jabs as well.
And for the News Content Team from the BBC, they filmed malaria vaccine trials in and around Ifakara Bagamoyo Clinical Trials Facility in Coast Region. Their filming mostly took place in Bagamoyo, and Kiwangwa.
The filming was particularly timed to coincide with the 12-month booster vaccinations for children enrolled on the trial. They captured trial participants receiving booster vaccinations at the site; and interviewed the same. Additionally, the team captured footage of researchers at work and interviewed the same, as well as interviewed consented malaria patients at the Bagamoyo District Hospital.
The BBC team comprised: Gladys Njoroge – Producer based in Nairobi; Anne Soy – Senior Africa Correspondent; and Davies Philp – Camera crew. Their story will be aired on the day the results of the trial will be officially announced and will target audiences globally through their radio, TV and online platforms.
R21 trial: Testing the new, more effective next malaria vaccine
Ifakara scientists administered the first doses of the new malaria vaccine in Tanzania on Saturday, October 2nd 2021. Three babies aged 5 - 36 months received their first jabs at Kiwangwa area in Bagamoyo.
Ifakara’s Head of Interventions & Clinical Trials Dr. Ally Olotu informed that the ongoing study was “part of a multi-center phase three trial that investigates the efficacy of this promising vaccine in four African countries” with the study countries being Tanzania, Kenya, Mali and Burkina Faso.
Earlier this year, a phase two trial of the same vaccine showed an efficacy of 77% against clinical malaria in Burkina Faso in children of same age group – meeting the WHO set milestone of 75% malaria vaccine efficacy by 2030.
The promise shown in early clinical trials raises hopes that the vaccine, technically known as “R21”, might one day prove to be an effective weapon against one of the world’s biggest killers of people, particularly children.
Ifakara part of the science breakthrough
Ifakara was privileged to be part of the ground-breaking malaria vaccine known as “RTS,S/ASO1” recommended last year by the World Health Organization (WHO) for children at risk. This was a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control.
The WHO announced on October 6, 2021 that it recommends widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission. The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.
Learn more about Ifakara involvement in the RTS,S malaria vaccine trial here: